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SETTLING CASES ON THE COURTHOUSE STEPS – LONGER WAITS AND FEWER COURTHOUSES

September 27, 2011

Part one in an ongoing series by David Kuroda on CHILD CUSTODY ISSUES: AVOIDING TRIAL, HELP FOR FAMILY LAW JUDICIAL OFFICERS RESPONSES TO ELKINS REFORMS AND THE ECONOMY

“It seems that we are constantly “losing” experienced family law judicial officers and they are being replaced with new judges who know little, if anything, about family law.  Why is this?”

– An attorney on the Family Law List serve

Family law was already reeling from longer waits, the departure of experienced judicial officers and the recession. The announcement of courtroom closures and layoffs of family law staff brought home the cascading effects of the economic crisis of the state and the country.

On top of that, the reforms stemming from the Elkins Task Force will add to the delays and congestion in the courtrooms. The additional requirements will burden the courts even more.

Consensual dispute resolution (CDR) and helping litigants get divorced outside the courtroom is a timely response to the court’s problems. (The State Bar will be changing the section name from ADR to CDR, as mediation and collaborative law go increasingly mainstream).

SETTLING CASES ON THE COURTHOUSE STEPS – LONGER WAITS AND FEWER COURTHOUSES

Many military strategists justify their defense budgets by being prepared for war. The best way to wage peace is to prepare for war it is argued. When facing an election, some judges build impressive campaign funds and get the word out early on; the hope, of course, is to discourage others from even entering the race. It is no accident so many cases settle on the courthouse steps. Many attorneys prepare for trial and are willing to settle the case if the conditions are favorable. This is certainly one of the traditional ways of settling cases, yet considerable resources and time are expended. Trial preparation takes its toll on the attorney and his or her family.

With fewer courtrooms courthouses, the pressure to settle cases will change. Estimates of doubling the time required before hearings and trials, cases will languish on the back burners while families, especially children will have to wait for court orders for parenting time and child and spousal support. Supervising Judge Marjorie Steinberg broke the bad news to the Beverly Hills Bar meeting this past week. The court expects to lay off 600 employees in October, 2012 and another 400 the following year.

Mr. Kuroda is the former Division Chief, Family Court Services, Superior Court of Los Angeles and directed the Mediation and Conciliation Service, the first and largest court mediation program in the nation. In his 18 years with the Superior Court.

In addition to directing the program, he has personally provided mediation services to over 8,000 families, and has made presentations on collaborative divorce, mediation and divorce to numerous groups of attorneys and mental health professionals. He is a member of A Better Divorce, LAWCDP, the LA Collaborative Family Law Association, and CDRC. He serves on the Family Law Executive Committee, LA County Bar Association. He was recognized by the National Association of Social Workers, NASW, California, with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003; he was honored for his contributions to help establish Collaborative Divorce by Collaborative Practice California; in 2007 with the George Nickel Award, California Social Welfare Archives.

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